An Interview with the Master of Italian Pastry chefs
Italy’s top pastry chef is…very sweet
Born in Brescia in 1942, Maestro Iginio Massari was born into an environment where the kitchen occupied an important place: his mother was a cook, and his father was the manager of a canteen.
After his first job in a bakery, he went to Budrye in Switzerland, where, in addition to his first experiences in patisserie and chocolaterie, he learned a lot from the great Claude Gerber. Although in-demand in the area, he desired to return to Italy, where, unfortunately, he was the victim of a serious car accident.
Consequently, the young Iginio threw himself head-first into pastry-making. He worked despite limited mobility for the well-known industrial food giant Barzetti. At Bauli he widened his knowledge on leavened pastries. Once back in Brescia, he became first in charge and head pastry chef for the Cervi brothers and then executive of the Star. In 1971, upon request of his wife, he opened the Pasticceria Veneto.
Great talent and discipline, professionalism and dedication make him a unique character, with an infinite cultural background. Since 1964, he has won more than 300 contests, awards and international recognitions, and also founded the Academy of Italian Master Pastry Chefs. Since 2011, the “Gambero Rosso” has recognized his patisserie as being the best in Italy. In the meantime he also received the title of “Commendatore” of the Italian Republic.
- Does an ideal summer dessert exist?
Once upon a time we had to follow the seasons because refrigerators and blast chillers weren’t available, and giving up chocolate in the summertime was necessary. Today we no longer have this problem, even though most certainly in the summer the trend leans towards cakes and pastry made with fruit. And, I must say that from customer requests, Italian fruit beats exotic fruit.
- What is the current trend in the world of confectionery?
In the central south, traditions are still very rooted, whilst in the north there is more diversity on offer. If you go to the pastry shops in Milan, Paris or London, the windows often look similar. In my opinion, in the well-known holiday destination of Jesolo, tradition is influenced by sliced cakes of the Austro-Hungarian and German types.
- We saw you as a guest on Masterchef and star of “The Sweetman” but what do you think about television programmes regarding pastry-making?
People prefer to watch the screen rather than read, and that is a fact. Although I must say that some formats are more valid than others. Capability, however, cannot be bought at the supermarket. It’s better to follow the more serious programs, with solid foundations, and as for the others there’s a quick solution: the remote control.
- What features must the perfect dessert have?
Along with time, fashions and ways change, we once needed a lot of sugar, or alcohol for conservation, but today we can allow ourselves to reduce this and that, so much as to say that so very little alcohol is present in one slice, that we could, absurdly, even go without declaring it.
In hot countries, sweets are often dipped in sugary syrups, but thanks to modern technology this is no longer necessary. Therefore, the presence of a lower quantity of sugar allows us to enhance the aromatic flavours, the fragrances of the ingredients used.
Research is a must, and sooner or later we will come to adopt the concept so dear to the Japanese: beauty must correspond to goodness.